Category Archives: Morning tease

The Monday Morning Teaser

It’s another week where there’s one obvious thing to talk about: torture. So this week’s featured post will be “5 Things to Understand about the Torture Report”. It should be out maybe 10ish. I will take the radical position that laws should be enforced and people who break them should stand trial, including people on my side if it comes to that.

The weekly summary begins with one aspect of the public response to the torture report: the people who are zealously against Big Government and its abuses of power — except when it’s abusing people they don’t like, either by torturing suspected terrorists or gunning down young black men. The technical term for this democracy-for-me/tyranny-for-thee position is herrenvolk democracy, which I’ll explain.

In other news, Congress avoided another government shutdown, but Wall Street had to be paid off first.

I almost covered the University of Virginia rape story when it first came out, but I ran out of space. That stroke of luck kept me from needing to correct the embarrassing comments I would have made, now that the story has blown up. But the villain here isn’t the woman whose memory of a traumatic night two years ago has holes in it, it’s Rolling Stone, which has done incalculable damage to rape victims everywhere by making a big splash with a sensational story it never checked out.

I’ll also review a wonderful book by an Armenian-American woman who lived in Turkey for two years, where she learned a lot about the complexity of ethnic conflict. And I’ll link to somebody else’s review of a book I hope to read soon, about the importance of the apocalypse in evangelical thinking.

Plus a bunch of other stuff and a typically silly closing.

The Monday Morning Teaser

After the mid-term elections, I complained that “Republicans have a story to tell. We’re stuck with facts.” They have a mythic narrative I summed up as: “America is a city on a hill with barbarians at the gates.” Democrats answer with a bunch of small-scale policies: a higher minimum wage, increased access to health care, equal pay for women, and so on. It’s all good stuff but it doesn’t stir the blood, with the result that a lot of our voters forget to go out and vote.

I don’t think there’s anything inherently small-scale or non-mythic about liberalism, so I promised to spend some of my time in the wilderness thinking about what I called “the true story of America”.

If you thought that meant that in a few weeks I’d deliver the mythic liberal narrative wrapped up with a pretty bow, you have way too much faith in me. This week I’m posting a first tentative step in that direction, what I’m billing as “a rambling attempt to get to the heart of the progressive vision”. It’s called “Can We Share the World?” because it harks back to some of the ideas in a talk I gave several years ago called “Who Owns the World?” It’s intentionally incomplete and imperfect, and I’m putting it out there to draw comment and start discussion.

It’s also been kind of a busy week in the news, so the weekly summary is a little longer than usual. It discusses police killing black men and getting away with it, the surprisingly good November jobs report, why Hillary won’t announce her candidacy any time soon, and various religious-freedom stories that are out there.

When you’re writing a “rambling attempt” at something, it’s hard to predict exactly when it will be done. Look for “Can We Share the World?” maybe 11ish EST, and the weekly summary an hour or so later.

The Monday Morning Teaser

What else is there to write about this week: the grand jury decision not to indict Darren Wilson in the killing of Michael Brown. The lead article will be “This Time, Will the Outrage Matter?” I’m not sure when it will come out.

The Monday Morning Teaser

Maybe the most depressing post in Weekly Sift history is “Countdown to Augustus“. It extrapolated from the then-current legal back-and-forth between the President and the Senate about recess appointments and the possibility of nullifying laws by refusing to confirm anyone to enforce them, to the more general problem of the erosion of the political norms that a republic depends on to function.

Oversimplifying a little for brevity: Partisan gridlock creates a dysfunctional republic. Leaders then can’t solve problems without cutting corners, but in the long run the corner-cutting increases the dysfunctionality. The bad example to avoid is Rome, where a century of gridlock between the self-serving patricians of the Senate and a series of populist reformers from Marius to Caesar eroded the norms of republican government to the point that Augustus was able to sweep it all away.

Like I just said, it was depressing. And it’s topical again, because of the recently announced immigration reform by executive order.

Obama was in the typical Roman-populist-leader situation of either watching a problem fester (and convincing the electorate that politics is useless), or doing something that is legal but against the usual norms. So he did something. And I’m happy he did rather than leave the problem festering, but I also see the longer-term erosion continuing.

So I’ve written another depressing post: “One-and-a-Half Cheers for Executive Action”. No doubt you’ll enjoy it as much as I did.

It should appear shortly. Later this morning, the weekly summary will discuss the reaction to Obama’s reform, Bill Cosby, the Buffalo snow, and a variety of other things.

The Monday Morning Teaser

This week begins the long, vague project I proposed last week: coming up with the Story of America that liberals should be telling, one that justifies our worldview and mobilizes our voters.

But unlike the City on a Hill/Barbarians at the Gates story that plays that role for conservatives, I’d like our story to be as true as such a story can be. I want its history to correspond to what really happened, and its projections to be based on the way the world really works. Like any story, it will emphasize some things and leave out others, but I want it to illuminate rather than deceive.

In short, I don’t want to just throw all our current commitments together and spin some yarn that rationalizes them. Too many of the arguments we make today are corrupted by other people’s myths. Sometimes we’ve inadvertently accepted the ideological inventions of our opponents, and sometimes we’ve just given in to what Americans want to believe about themselves. Sometimes we’ve set our goals too timidly, so we end up promoting policies (like raising the minimum wage) that are fine ideas as far as they go, but don’t credibly solve the problem we say we’re working on.

So over the next several months (or maybe longer) I want to re-examine issues from scratch, and root my understanding of them in true history, rather than the stories commonly bandied about today. This week I start with immigration, and with Aviva Chomsky’s recent book Undocumented: How Immigration Became Illegal. That piece is just about ready to go, and should be out shortly.

The weekly summary will open with a quote that could be the motto of the first phase of this whole vague project: “It is better to know less than to know so much that ain’t so.” (And it turns out not to be a Mark Twain or Will Rogers line, no matter what the internet says. That ain’t so.) Then I’ll go on to talk about President Obama’s new boldness on net neutrality, climate change, and (maybe soon) immigration; the comet landing; the Rashomon-ish way the media covered the second-year ObamaCare premiums; and whatever else comes up. And I’ll close with a video proving that although you may have to pay your dues to sing the blues, you don’t have to be old enough to talk.

The Monday Morning Teaser

So what was that all about? Why, for the second midterm in a row, did the Democrats lose all the close races and yield control of another house of Congress?

The falling unemployment rate and deficit didn’t matter, the coming demographic wave didn’t matter, Big Data didn’t matter, the unpopularity of the Republican Party and their complete lack of solutions didn’t matter. They now control the Senate, and they kept control of governorships in both red states and a few blue ones.

And yes, all that dark money played a role, voter suppression played a role, racism played a role … but I’m left with the feeling that there’s much more to it than that. I’ll try to capture the bigger picture later this morning in “Republicans have a story to tell. We’re stuck with facts.” I’m not sure exactly how long it’s going to take to get that out.

In the weekly summary, “Broken Pieces of Truth”, I’ll walk through some of the explanations of what happened, and the speculation about what happens next. Plus I’ll summarize why the Supreme Court is finally going to have to rule on marriage equality, and what the new ObamaCare case is about. And I’ll close with a warning from Ned Stark.

The Monday Morning Teaser

Tomorrow is Election Day, so that’s what I’m focused on. The Sift never claims to be non-partisan*, but least of all today: I want the Democrats to hold the Senate.

So this week has two featured posts. The first is my encouragement to vote: “Vote. It’s Not Nearly Enough. But It’s Something.” I’m arguing against the people who think they’re protesting by not voting. I admit that the two-party system doesn’t give us the choices we wish we had. But all that says to me is that voting isn’t enough; we also need Occupy-like efforts to change the political conversation and change the larger culture.

I also think that the choice the two-party system does give us is clear, and I argue that in detail in the second featured post, “The Case for Voting Democrat”.

“Vote” should be out shortly, and “Democrat” later in the morning. A short weekly summary should appear before noon.

* All I claim is that I’m honest. I’ll try to convince you, but only by telling you things that I believe are really true.


The Monday Morning Teaser

Today I’m going to make the case that (if you take the time to think about it) Ebola should be a liberal issue, not a conservative one. Emotionally, it’s a conservative issue because it raises fear, and conservatism is all about taking drastic, angry action out of fear. But rationally, Ebola teaches liberal lessons: To beat this, we need to think like a society rather than like a collection of sovereign individuals. We need to think in ways unrelated to the profit motive. We need to care for the weak and helpless, even if they’re in some distant country. We need to trust in our scientists and our government, rather than react in fearful and ignorant ways.

And if you could reach back into the past and restore those CDC budget cuts, wouldn’t you do it? What other budget cuts will eventually turn out to be similarly short-sighted?

In the weekly summary, I’ll look at the Catholic Church’s Synod on the Family and what it tells about Pope Francis’ plans for change, at Paul Krugman’s case for the success of the Obama presidency, and at the Supreme Court’s mixed record on voting rights. And I’ll close with a very cute radio piece about turning third-graders into radio reporters.

Expect the Ebola piece about 10 EDT, and the summary around noon.

BTW: No Sift next week. Though if you’re near Bedford, Massachusetts on Sunday morning, you can come hear me speak.

The Monday Morning Teaser

This week’s Sift is heavy on featured articles and light on the weekly summary. The first featured article is my response to the much-discussed Sam Harris/Ben Affleck argument on Bill Maher’s Real Time: “Sam Harris and the Orientalization of Islam”. I expect to get roasted for this in the comments, because I know Sam Harris is a special hero of some of the Sift’s regular readers. But I gotta call ‘em like I see ‘em.

That article is ready to go and should post right after the Teaser.

In the second article, “Is the Battle For Same-Sex Marriage Nearly Over?”, I look at the Supreme Court’s refusal to hear the appeals of several states who had their bans on same-sex marriage overturned by lower courts. It’s easy — and I think probably right — to view this as a tipping point. When the dust settles over the next few months, same-sex marriage will be legal in 30 states. The Court doesn’t want to get too far out in front of public opinion, but the legal, political, and social momentum all run in the same direction. Expect to see that article at maybe 10 or 10:30 EDT.

In the summary, I continue to marvel at the Ebola panic. Exactly one person has caught Ebola inside the United States, and it has become the only health problem we talk about. Also, predicting the 2014 Senate races has become almost impossible, with supposedly safe seats on both sides suddenly looking uncertain. I’ll try to get that out by noon.

The Monday Morning Teaser

I got so many good suggestions after last week’s “A Conservative Lexicon With English Translation” that I’ll be putting out the Second Edition this week. In addition to new entries, the Second Edition has a Preface that discusses origin of the Lexicon, and corrects misperceptions about the intentions behind it. It should appear around 10.

It’s been another busy week for news. In the weekly summary, I’ll talk about the Hong Kong protests, Ebola, the possible successors for Eric Holder, the Secret Service uproar, and the National Geographic Photo Contest. The closing is an amazing piece about how the reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone changed not just the ecology of the park, but even its geography. Look for the summary around noon.


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